Math grad gets top prize 

By Barbara Black

Silver medallist Leonid Kelner gets his photo taken in advance of his convocation ceremony next week. Kelner had an almost perfect GPA of 4.29. Magnifying glass

Silver medallist Leonid Kelner gets his photo taken in advance of his convocation ceremony next week. Kelner had an almost perfect GPA of 4.29. "Some nights I think about the one that got away."

Leo Kelner has won the Governor-General’s Silver Medal for having the highest grade point average among first-cycle graduates at spring convocation.

“My final GPA was 4.29,” he confessed. “I keep telling myself it’s better than a perfect GPA [4.3] because it leaves room for improvement.”

Kelner was in actuarial mathematics, a Concordia program that has produced some brilliant graduates.

“There’s a reason actuarial science is sometimes referred to as the ‘best-kept secret in business,’” he said. “Nobody knows about it! And neither did I, until after I started an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at McGill.

“After CEGEP, I chose mechanical engineering because I wanted a career in applied mathematics and thought that engineering was pretty much the only choice that fits that category.”

He discovered the Concordia program and the actuarial profession in general through a friend, and realized that it was more in line with his interests.

“It was probably the best decision I ever made, because I absolutely love what I do now.” He is hard at work already at the big insurance company Standard Life.

“Actuarial math appeals to me because it provides you with an extremely versatile set of tools. The very same concepts that are used in traditional actuarial fields such as insurance can be applied to a vast array of seemingly unrelated problems, from something important like choosing the most beneficial mortgage option given current market conditions to something completely ridiculous like choosing the best team for your fantasy hockey pool.”

He was able to get an internship in London, England, as an actuarial analyst in the asset and liability management department of Aon Consulting. “It was a great work experience, and it wiped away any doubt I had left about my decision to switch programs.”

A series of gruelling exams for certification are a must-have in his field. “In fact, some (if not all) companies who hire actuaries would favour a candidate with more exams over another who had a higher GPA in university.” Kelner has four exams under his belt, and plans to continue until he gets his certification.

“What I will remember most about my time at Concordia will probably be the faculty of the math and stats department. Every professor I’ve had the opportunity of meeting was extremely intelligent, passionate and a little crazy in his or her own way, which made my three years at Concordia very interesting and fun.

“I’m seriously considering pursuing graduate studies at Concordia in a year or two, so my time at Concordia might not be over yet.”


Concordia University